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EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

EEOC issues COVID-19 vaccine guidance

By Mike O’Brien bio On Dec. 16, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its COVID-19 guidance to include a section devoted to vaccinations. The EEOC’s guidance answers these and other COVID-19 vaccine questions: “Is asking or requiring an employee to show proof of receipt of a COVID-19 vaccination a disability-related inquiry?” “If an employer requires vaccinations when they are available, how should it respond to an employee who indicates that he or she is unable to receive a COVID-19 vaccination because of a disability?” “If an employer requires vaccinations when they are available, how should it respond to an employee who indicates that he or she is unable to receive a COVID-19 vaccination because of a sincerely held religious practice or belief?” “What happens if an employer cannot… . . . read more

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

Expect a change of course under Biden for retirement accounts and immigration

By Mike O’Brien bio Experts predict that the Biden administration will differ from Trump’s in several respects. Mr. Biden supports ending upfront tax breaks for contributing to traditional 401(k) plans and replacing them with flat-tax credits. Current tax benefits for retirement savings provide “upper-income families with a much stronger tax break for saving and a limited benefit for middle-class and other workers with lower earnings,” according to Biden’s campaign website. “The Biden plan will equalize benefits across the income scale, so that low- and middle-income workers will also get a tax break when they put money away for retirement.” The Biden administration is also expected to implement automatic 401(k) enrollment, multiemployer pension plan relief (providing federally-backed loans to underfunded multiemployer defined benefit pension plans), and adjust social security payroll taxes. Mr…. . . . read more

CYBERSECURITY

Disinformation endangers your company, not just democracy

By Doug Striker bio Did you hear about the rumor that COVID-19 was spread by mobile devices using the 5G network? It sounds so insane and far-fetched that no one would believe it, right? I mean, how in the world would a virus travel through a cell phone frequency band, into a cell phone or tablet, and then out of the device into a person’s body? But thanks to social media, fake news sites set up by bad actors, and Average Joes (like you and me) who click that “share” button all too readily, the rumor spread like wildfire, gaining so much traction that people were literally lighting cell phone towers on fire around the world. Why would someone spread such nonsense? And when I say “someone,” I not only… . . . read more

MANAGING THE OFFICE

Renting out extra space? Set up protective walls to avoid risk

With more law firm employees working from home during the pandemic, a firm may find itself living in too much space—and paying too much rent. One solution is to bring in a tenant. Usually the renter is a solo practitioner or a small firm, and the arrangement is good for everybody, because the firm collects the rent and the renter gets the amenities as well as the appearance of an association with the larger group. From a risk perspective, however, it’s a cause for concern. The firm has to look past the financial benefits to the danger spots. It has to think like a landlord and get signed documents and insurance policies. And more, it has to set up protections against the disasters specific to a law firm/law firm lease… . . . read more

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

How HR regulations could change under Biden administration

By Mike O’Brien bio Employers may be wondering how a Biden administration will affect workplace laws. Prior to the election, Biden’s campaign website gives some clues as to his priorities in this area. Biden lists the failure to pay minimum wage and overtime pay, forcing off-the-clock work, and misclassifying workers as problems resulting in billions of dollars a year in wage theft. To address those issues, he proposes a phased-in implementation of a $15 per hour federal minimum wage (including eliminating the tip credit). He also supports the adoption of a more stringent test for classifying workers as independent contractors, similar to the ABC test employed by California. This type of test would almost certainly result in many more workers being deemed employees and fewer being properly classified as independent… . . . read more

TOOL

Model Substance Abuse and Fitness for Duty Policy

Workplace substance abuse remains a major challenge for law offices. Although sound in principle, the traditional zero tolerance policy is ill-suited to the legal complexities of the modern world. This is especially true in states that have legalized marijuana. You can still take a clear and firm line on employee drug and alcohol abuse for the purpose of health and safety. But the policy also has to exhibit finesse and sensitivity to legal subtleties. One of the best ways to create an enforceable policy is to base it not on the legality of substance abuse but the undisputable fact that it renders employees unfit for duty to the detriment of safety. Here’s a Model Policy you can adapt.

COMPLIANCE

How to Create a Legally Sound Substance Abuse Policy

Make it all about fitness for duty, rather than zero tolerance Although it may sound good, zero tolerance may not be the best foundation on which to build a legally enforceable workplace substance abuse policy. This is especially true in states that have legalized recreational marijuana. The reason drug and alcohol use and impairment in the workplace cannot be tolerated isn’t so much that it’s illegal, but because it renders employees unfit to do their job. In addition to undermining the productivity you’re entitled to expect from your employees, this unfitness for duty may pose a health and safety dangers to not only the employee who’s high but others in the office. Here are 14 things to include in your Substance Abuse and Fitness for Duty Policy, along with a… . . . read more

TOOL

Model waiver of COVID-19 infection liability sign to post at your law office

As long as COVID-19 remains a threat, you run the risk of being sued by clients, vendors, guests and other visitors (“visitors”) who claim they contracted the virus at your office facility as a result of your inadequate safety measures. One way to limit liability is by conspicuously posting a sign at the entry of your facility indicating visitors’ agreement to waive their rights to sue you for COVID-19 infections by entering the office. Although there’s no guarantee that a court would enforce such a waiver, the Model Sign below uses fairly conservative language that has been found to be enforceable in other situations. Caveat: The inclusion of the phrase purporting to insulate you against your own negligence in Sections 3 and 4 is fairly risky and you may want… . . . read more

TOOL

Model visitors’ waiver of COVID-19 infection liability form

As long as COVID-19 remains a threat, you run the risk of being sued by clients, vendors, guests and other visitors (“visitors”) who claim they contracted the virus at your office as a result of your inadequate safety measures. One way to limit liability is having visitors sign a form agreeing to waive their rights to sue you for COVID-19 infections before entering the office. Although there’s no guarantee that a court would enforce such a waiver, the Model Form below uses fairly conservative language that has been found to be enforceable in other situations. Caveat: The inclusion of the phrase purporting to insulate you against your own negligence in Sections 3 and 4 is fairly risky and you may want to talk to counsel about whether to use it… . . . read more

COMPLIANCE

Using waivers to avoid getting sued for COVID-19 infections

In these times of pandemic, signs and forms like this purporting to shield the owner of a facility against liability have become a fixture in workplaces and other facilities. You might even be using them at your own office. The idea is to notify clients, vendors and other visitors (which, for simplicity’s sake, we’ll refer to collectively as “visitors”) that they’re entering the facility at their own risk and in so doing, waiving their rights to sue the owner for any illness or injury they suffer while on the premises. Of course, that includes COVID-19 infection. It seems like a simple, cost-effective way to limit liability risks to visitors who may claim they got infected while they were at your office. But will it work? The answer may depend, in… . . . read more


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